The monthly Wetland Bird Survey takes me to the Conwy estuary, and my January visit generally sees the highest numbers of waterbirds. Well over 1000 Dunlin huddled on the rocky groynes and hundreds of Turnstones and Oystercatchers aggregated above high water. It’s the month when I see the greatest number of Common Gulls, which winter in North Wales from their breeding homes in Scandinavia. My counts are small compared to the Flintshire coast, where more than 4000 Common Gulls are between Gronant and Talacre, some with coloured leg-rings that shows their Norwegian origin. Smaller than a Herring Gull, with green-yellow legs and a bill with a thick black band, it’s not well named in English as it’s less common than our other regular gulls at most times of year.
Also off our coast is a Surf Scoter at Llanddulas, Slavonian Grebe off Beaumaris, Velvet Scoter off Criccieth, Black-necked Grebe and Long-tailed Duck at Borth-y-Gest, and another two Long-tailed Ducks off Benllech. A Ring-necked Duck from North America is on Cefni Reservoir, European White-fronted Goose on the Afon Glaslyn at Porthmadog, Black Redstart at Kinmel Bay, and several Twite and a Siberian Chiffchaff are at Gronant.
Next weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, the UK’s biggest citizen science event of the year. I remember taking part as an eight-year old in the 1970s and it’s great to see multiple generations participating. You don’t have to feed birds to take part, or even to have a garden. Visit your local park for an hour instead. If you provide food and water, give the feeders and bath a good clean this week, air-dry thoroughly, and fill with seeds and water. Watch for one hour next weekend and visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch to send in your results. Remember, the zeros or low counts are just as important as big counts!
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.